Ingesting cannabis can lead to pleasant and beneficial side effects for some people, but taking too much can detract from your experience. Here’s how to keep it in check, how long edibles last and if edibles expire.

Cannabis is becoming legal in more and more states, which is leading to an increased interest in ways to use it. THC and CBD are both derived from cannabis plants, and are associated with a slew of benefits. There are several positive things that can happen to your body when you eat edibles, including relaxation and a decrease in inflammation. However, overdoing it can lead to feelings of anxiety, panic and a quickened heart rate. (Before you get started with edibles, it's a good idea to check with your doctor, and always be sure to keep any cannabis-containing foods out of reach of children, pets and unknowing snackers.)

To make edibles, you can use cannabis-infused oil or butter instead of or in addition to regular cooking oil or butter. If done in the correct proportions, this can lead to a pleasant, relaxing experience. However, when you are starting out, it can be hard to know how much to take. Here are some tips so you can start slowly and avoid overdoing it. 

The shadow of a cannabis leaf over gummy bears
Credit: Getty Images / Olena Ruban / Matthias Kulka

Start small

If you are making your own cannabis-infused treats, instead of substituting all of the oil or butter in a recipe for infused oil or butter, try a 50-50 mix (or even less) to start. Using half infused oil and half regular oil will make your finished product half as potent, making it milder so you are less likely to have more than what is enjoyable for you. You can always increase the amount of infused oil or butter in your recipe over time if you want, but starting with half will help you ease into it and learn your limits. Likewise, if you are buying edibles, start with the smallest portion and build from there (e.g., half a gummy or truffle).

It is worth noting that cannabinoids, in CBD or THC, do degrade over time, meaning that edibles do expire. Foods also will age similarly even if they are infused with cannabis. For example, a baked good will have a shorter shelf life than a piece of hard candy. Keeping edibles in the refrigerator or freezer can help to extend their shelf life and prevent spoilage.

Wait at least 2 hours 

Edibles need to be digested and can take varying amounts of time to kick in. How quickly you begin to feel the effects of an edible can depend on how much other food you've eaten that day, your size, your metabolism and other factors. Most edibles can take anywhere from two to three hours before you start to feel their full effects, and the effects of edibles can last anywhere from six or more hours with the strongest side effects usually occurring within three hours of ingestion. As a general rule, it is a good idea to take a small amount to start and wait at least two hours before taking any more. 

Eat before 

Similar to drinking alcohol or caffeine, eating before consuming edibles can keep the effects more gradual and consistent. Having a full stomach allows you to process the edibles more slowly and makes you less likely to abruptly experience unpleasant side effects. Eating a meal before enjoying an edible can also temper the "munchies" feeling you might experience later on.   

Have a buddy 

If you take edibles, make sure there is a sober person around to check in with you and keep things under control. Similar to having a designated driver, it is helpful to have someone you know who can make sure you are feeling good or safely drive you somewhere if needed. It can also be grounding if you are trying edibles for the first time to have someone with you who you know is not impaired.